See, Wise Man’s Grandchild? You can be interesting if you try! In this particular case, “trying” means going into Schrom’s past and making him less of a generic bad guy. While his motivations are still firmly within the realm of what we’ve seen before in fiction, that isn’t in itself a bad thing, because betrayal and the loss of your family is a pretty strong motivator. For Schrom, it’s even worse because it’s his “reward” for trying to be a good person and improve the lot of the commoners of his kingdom while reforming the way things are done in general. Twenty years ago, he was the naïve and kind young Lord Oliveira, a duke in the Empire who took what he observed of the Kingdom in his childhood and turned it into his governing principle when it came to running his estate – equality and kindness. His attempts to convince other, far more selfish and corrupt nobles unfortunately made him a target, and a plot was launched against him that ultimately ended with his pregnant wife being murdered. This is what triggered his transformation into a demonoid, and honestly, I can’t really blame him.
What’s more interesting is that he took his betrayal and turned it on the empire itself, which is how he got to where he is now. Essentially he did what was done to him – turning the lower classes against him by a disinformation campaign – to the upper classes of the Blusfia Empire, basically wiping out all nobles except himself and any of his direct underlings who also happen to be nobility. But now that he’s conquered the empire, he’s not sure what to do, and he doesn’t seem to have any ambition to take his show on the road. Unfortunately for him, his minions do, and it looks like they’re about to go for round three of the “lie and get people to start their wars for them” game, with Schrom again as the victim. Just because he’s been in this for twenty years as both target and instigator doesn’t mean that he won’t fall for it again, and the implication is that cycles of hate and anger are pretty well endless unless someone steps in to definitively stop them.
Obviously that’s where Shin and his cringily named “Ultimate Magicians” come in. (In his defense, he knows the name is awful. Aug totally set him up for that.) Or at least, that’s the narrative idea. In reality, Shin’s just as naïve as Oliveira was twenty years ago, and he’s got the same ostensible weakness in Sizilien. I’m 90% positive that at some point within the final episodes we’ll see that what sets him apart from Schrom is his close-knit group of Good Friends who will Stand by Him No Matter What™. Presumably there’ll be some heartfelt moment when Sizilien tells him not to worry about her and let her be killed so that he can defeat the villain, but of course Schrom’s biggest weakness will be his assumption that he’s been all alone and friendless.
In any event, Schrom’s past is by far the most interesting thing to happen in this show in weeks, and the way it demonstrates the cycles of destruction and disinformation is decently done. In any other series, I might think that Aug’s very clear political use of Shin when the announcement of demonoids on the kingdom’s borders is another piece of this particular issue; after all, it is going against what Merlin made the king promise not to do. That still may be true, but I suspect that the parallels may escape the series in this case and that rather than planning the timing of the report, Aug was just trying to work with what he had in a moment of crisis. (Wouldn’t it be nice if this was all calculated, though? For plot purposes, of course.)
Be that as it may, with minimal Sizilien, a focus on the more engaging aspects of the story, and only brief “training” bits, this is one of the series’ better episodes. Let’s hope it can maintain that through the end.
Wise Man’s Grandchild is currently streaming on Funimation.